Membership Spotlight: Ylabs



To kick off our 2021 membership spotlight series, the Self-Care Trailblazer Group is focusing on YLabs, a team of physicians, designers, economists, developers, public health professionals, and educators working to design programs that address global problems facing youth.  Learn more from YLab’s Lauryn Claassen, Marketing and Communications Lead. 

Tell us a bit about your organization

Youth Development Labs (YLabs) is a leading global design and research organization that works to improve health and economic opportunity for young people worldwide. We all know that adolescence is a critical window of opportunity to influence behavior, growth, and development – but young people are still systematically excluded from the design of health and economic solutions that are meant for them. 

At YLabs, we use youth-centered design methodology in order to create programs and services WITH young people, not FOR young people. Since our founding, we have focused on the challenges that matter most to youth, leading us to specialize in HIV/AIDS, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and economic inclusion. To date, we have worked in 15 countries on projects that put young people at the center of the entire process. Some recent projects include work aimed at increasing the uptake of contraceptives through digital self-care in Rwanda, exploring pleasure-based sex education in Central America, and addressing mental health through the media in the US. You can dig into our current projects here

Why do you consider self-care to be a vital part of healthcare systems?

We believe that self-care and direct-to-consumer programs and platforms can be instrumental in alleviating strains on existing systems, increasing care-seeking behavior, and create a youth-friendly entry point into the formal healthcare ecosystem. They should be an integrated part of the healthcare system because they are solutions hiding in plain sight. 

YLabs, Kigali Rwanda

Just as a food delivery service can bring your favorite take-out or grocery products to your front door, self-care platforms can deliver life-saving information and products to people who need them the most – from emergency contraception to sexual education to mental health support.

For example, YLabs has been working with young people, community members, and health providers over the past four years to develop self-care approaches that combine engaging, youth-focused health information with a direct linkage to health products and services. Through our CyberRwanda project, young people can access accurate, fact-based information designed for them, and then order family planning and menstrual hygiene products online for pick-up at a local pharmacy of their choice.  Medical screening can be done in advance, which minimizes interaction between the health care provider and young person, unless additional information is required. This saves time, decreases barriers to access, and eases pressure on overstretched health-care providers. We also work with providers on how to deliver youth-friendly care to support young people seeking health services and products. 

How does YLabs believe self-care can reach youth?
YLabs, Kigali Rwanda

Digital self-care platforms are a great way to reach youth because they allow them to access information and services on their own time. Young people value privacy and self-care platforms can be used where and when they choose; on their own device, or on a borrowed device. When done right, digital self-care platforms can also provide information in a more engaging, interactive, and informative way. As we continue to see a rise in both digital access and the availability of lo (IVR/USSD) and hi-fi (Smartphone) options, we know that young people will want to use digital devices when they can.

This desirability has the potential for long term health and wellness benefits. If we introduce health information that young people want and need, in a format that is appealing to them, we can create a point of entry into the health care system and encourage life long wellness. 

If you’d like to learn more about our self-care projects, youth-driven methodology, or just have more GIFs in your feed, follow us @YLabsGlobal or subscribe to our newsletter

Banner image: YLabs, Kigali Rwanda